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Harris v. Berryhill

United States District Court, C.D. California

November 22, 2017

PAMELA SUE HARRIS Plaintiff
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GAIL J. STANDISH, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff Pamela Sue Harris (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint seeking review of Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's (“Commissioner”) denial of her application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). The parties filed consents to proceed before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge [Dkts. 11, 12] and briefs addressing disputed issues in the case [Dkt. 22 (“Pltf.'s Br.”) and Dkt. 23 (“Def.'s Br.”), Dkt. 25 (“Pltf.'s Reply).] The Court has taken the parties' briefing under submission without oral argument. For the reasons set forth below, the Court affirms the decision of the ALJ and orders judgment entered accordingly.

         II. ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION UNDER REVIEW

         On September 23, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB. [Dkt. 15, Administrative Record (“AR”) 18, 148-149.] The Commissioner denied her initial claims for benefits on January 27, 2014, and upon reconsideration on April 10, 2014. [Id.] On February 17, 2016, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) John W. Wojciechiwski. [AR 31-55.] On March 16, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's request for benefits. [AR 17-31.] Plaintiff requested review from the Appeals Council, which denied review on December 12, 2016. [AR 1-7.]

         Applying the five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b)-(g)(1). At step one, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 3, 2011, the alleged onset date, through September 30, 2013, her date last insured. [AR 20.] At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairment: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine. [Id. (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c)).] Next, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments. [AR 21 (citing 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, and 404.1526).]

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following residual functional capacity (RFC):

[L]ight work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b)… [s]pecifically, the claimant was able to lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally, 10 pounds frequently; could sit for 6 hours out of an 8 hour day, all normal breaks. She could occasionally perform postural activities such as climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl, but could never use ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. She had to avoid concentrated exposure to extreme heat, cold, vibrations, and industrial hazards[.]

[AR 22.] Applying this RFC, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform past relevant work as a receptionist (DOT 237.367-038), and, thus, is not disabled. [AR 25.]

         III. GOVERNING STANDARD

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the Court reviews the Commissioner's decision to determine if: (1) the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the Commissioner used correct legal standards. See Carmickle v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., 533 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 2008); Hoopai v. Astrue, 499 F.3d 1071, 1074 (9th Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (internal citation and quotations omitted); see also Hoopai, 499 F.3d at 1074.

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff's sole claim is that the ALJ improperly found Plaintiff's testimony not fully credible. [Pltf.'s Br. at 3-13.]

         Plaintiff testified that she was unable to work because of limits on her ability to sit, stand, and walk. [AR 39.] When asked about her ability to walk, Plaintiff replied that she was unable to walk for more than a quarter of a mile and that she experienced pain walking down her driveway. [AR 47.] Plaintiff also testified that she could sit for five to twenty minutes and stand for five to twenty minutes at a time. [AR 48-49.] Plaintiff reported that her mother drives her to the grocery store and helps her do the laundry. [AR 46.] Plaintiff makes her own ...


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